Null Cell - NEMESIS
Null Cell is an American industrial project founded by Isabela Chains. She utilizes various elements in the industrial underground including rock, metal, and experimental takes. Usually her music falls under the industrial rock subgenre, but her whacky ways can turn out some extremely variable songs. Null Cell released her 2020 debut album “Eternally Ill” which turned out to be quite a hit. It proved to be popular amongst fans and some critics and went on to establish Null Cell’s identity. With that in the past, Null Cell continues her reign of industrial wrapped in cyberpunk stories in her latest album “Nemesis”. While Null Cell’s sophomore album “Nemesis” has a ton of great content, a few scrapes, bumps, and bruises hold it back from greatness.
‘The Return to Oz’ serves as the intro to “Nemesis” and comes in at one-minute and forty-six seconds. There’s an experimental, industrial crossover happening here as the sounds of a factory come to life. It’s an excellent way to kick off the album and leads us into the title track, ‘Nemesis’. After some silent synth lines, wonderful industrial rock riffs engulf my headphones. A blast of noise, almost like a warning from a video game, continuously pulsated forward. Classic industrial beats, slow moving and heavy electronics, are backed by plenty of samples. While the instrumental is great, I feel as if the vocals are off during multiple moments in the song. Null Cell wants their voice to extend into a growl at points while the beat is constantly jamming on. The song is not very cohesive when this happens.
Null Cell takes the fast-paced energy of EBM and injects it into their industrial rock blend on ‘Breaking The Code’. The result is a half-mosh, half-stomp song complete with vocals that sound as if they’re being shouted through a megaphone. It’s a riveting ride from start to end. ‘Dream Emulator’ turns in heavy and raw industrial beats for a slower, technical song. It’s in this track that I am able to hear every layer and beat; there’s a certain sci-fi feel to it that has yet to be uncovered thus far. Null Cell also nails their vocal delivery in this track, never off-beat.
Though I appreciate the song’s approach, ‘Over The Top’ isn’t as over the top as the title might suggest. I rather think it’s one of Null Cell’s more generic songs that can sound a bit repetitious throughout its run time. Guitars flail over a constant kick-drum-based beat and bass guitar below. It’s not as unique as other songs on the album and misses that extra Null Cell oomph. Thankfully, that’s remedied by ‘Psychic Slave’. It reminds me a bit of a song that would be found in a spy movie – if the spy move were utilizing near-future tech in an industrial fashion. This is thanks to the chorus-like effect with high-pitched, chanting vocals and the tension building synth lines within the track. The vocals are grim and dark, like the narrator to so many classic horror films, but oddly fit in with the otherwise bright beat.
I found a similar issue on ‘Blade’s Edge’ as I did with ‘Nemesis’ in that the vocals don’t get along with the beat that much. In fact, on this track, I found that they dominate the mix a bit too much. When the vocals are gone, however, there is a pretty decent industrial rock beat found beneath. Even then, however, it’s loaded with movie samples; I think a few sections where the instrumental segment would be allowed to shine would have been beneficial. I can only assume that ‘The Void’ is meant as an intermission track; coming in at two-minutes and twenty-one seconds, it’s a dark ambient / noise affair. However, in its intent, it is extremely bare bones and not really worth my time. Around the one-minute and forty-second mark, however, there is a surprise bit of industrial drum work and synth work. Still, it’s tough to get through for only forty seconds of playtime.
‘Chemical Haze’ is a song that I struggled to describe at first. Imagine that you’re at a carnival and you enter a tent with old animatronics that aren’t supposed to function. You push that big red button that really shouldn’t be pushed and those animatronics come to life. They then begin to play a bit of a children’s sounding song, but the air is polluted by noise, glitches, and psychedelic creepiness. That’s what this song is. It’s oddly satisfying, eerie, and haunting even though it nowhere near fits on this album.
The following two songs, ‘Judgement Pays (Good Cop)’ and ‘South-O-Sleaze’ are both decent songs. I can’t really describe them as more than just Null Cell tracks with industrial rock at their heart. ‘Twitching Alive’ has some retro, video game-like vibes ebbing off of the synthesizers. If the vocals weren’t present, I could easily see this backing an arcade beat’em’up with ease. The final song on the album, “Mechanesia”, has a wonderful cinematic build-up. The initial trickles remind me of a sunny field where butterflies are roaming. This is, obviously, a haze as ominous synths begin to break this illusion. This soon fades away and, around the one-minute and fifty-second mark, is replaced by cold electronics. We’re then thrust into an underground track featuring echoing beats and hard-synth riffs. It’s a track that sends me in a beautiful direction, but then throws me through a pane of glass.
The final comment I would like to make about “Nemesis” is the production work. While the album sounds decent, I think that some of the songs sound muddier than they should. If Null Cell were to hire a professional engineer to both mix and master her work from now on, she would be doing herself a service. Her work sounds good as it is; taking it to the next level is only icing on the top.
“Nemesis” then lands in a spot where there are a couple of errors about but it’s nothing to throw a huge fit about. Sure, the vocals sometimes don’t go along with the beat and there are a couple of odd choices on the album that I would like to see expunged, but the overall product is enjoyable and fun. I had multiple lifting sessions as I blasted through ‘Breaking The Code’ and found myself in unusual spots listening to ‘Psychic Slave’ and ‘Chemical Haze’. Six-and-a-half out of ten!
This review was commissioned through our Ko-fi page.
Dec 20 2021
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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